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I have been playing video games for a long time and I consider
myself to be very lucky because of this. I have seen video
game since their early days of being in the home from the
original Pong machines to the many years of the Atari 2600.
We have certainly come a long way.
I have also been a fan of portable gaming for a while too.
I used to play the old Game and Watch style pocket LCD games
when I was a kid and eventually I got into things like the
Atari Lynx and Sega Nomad. I skipped the original Game Boy
because I did not like the screen and was not in the financial
position to support it. Actually... I never owned a Game Boy
until the release of the Game Boy Color - when all of my concerns
with the screen quality were completely erased. (The screen
blur on the original Game Boy and Game Boy Pocket gave me
So now, in 2001, after a long time of planning and research...
the newest Game Boy is here in the form of the Game Boy Advance.
Yes, we've all read the "first impressions" and
ogled at the tons of beautiful pictures, which I'm sorry to
add, I couldn't provide many of. But don't be put-off, since
I'm going to give you something better, which is my unbiased
impressions of the GBA. I will also, in the process, address
the complaints most often heard around the net about Nintendo's
Click For Bigger Picture
Purpose Of The GBA
For those who know pratically nothing about the GBA (yes,
such people actually exist), the purpose of this product is
to provide us, the lucky gamers, with the means to play some
of the best video games anytime we want and, more importantly,
anyWHERE we want. Nintendo has taken a long time to bring
us the next level of portable gaming (since it could easily
be argued that the GBC was merely a stop gap, while the technology
behind the GBA became less expensive) and it should easily
meet the needs of any gamer on the go.
Features Of The GBA
The Game Boy Advance is an evolutionary step in handheld
gaming. Compared to the Game Boy Color, the screen is much
larger (50% is usually the reported difference). The processor
is now a full 32-bit compared to the 8-bit of the GBC. Color
pallet, resolution and everything else you would expect are
overhauled. Sound is also a remarkable improvement. I was
not looking for CD quality sound like some people so I was
quite happy with the results.
The system has also adopted the 'horizontal' orientation
that many competitors have used (most recently being the Neo
Geo Pocket Color and WonderSwan). Two 'shoulder' buttons have
been added for more control. One noticeably absent feature
is the lack of an AC adapter port. An AC adapter is available,
however, using a battery pack type piece with an AC plug going
into it. The battery life has also been increased by at least
5 hours over the GBC, which is an excellent surprise. The
headphone port is located on the bottom right hand side of
the system next to the volume control, nicely out of the way.
My favorite new feature is easily the power light. Yes...
it may be a small feature, it may be silly to think that this
is my favorite... but I love the way the green led looks in
my "Milky Blue" GBA. The reason this is really my
favorite new feature, though, is because it will change to
a red light when the batteries have about an hour or less
left in them. This is a wonderful addition, especially for
those of us who have lost a game since it was hard to notice
when the power was about to cut off on the GBC.
Using The GBA
I have been lucky enough to have the GBA in my hands since
10:30 am on the morning of March 21st. When I first took it
out of the box, even though I knew it was the same size as
the GBC... I was almost in awe at the look of it. It did seem
small. The system is very comfortable to hold. It does tend
to feel heavier than the GBC, which is mostly due to the horizontal
orientation as opposed to actual increased weight. (The GBA
does have about 2 ounces on the GBC though.) The controls
were all easy to get to and very responsive, as we would expect
from a Nintendo product. You may hold the system differently
depending on the type of game you are playing and the individual
The system itself feels incredibly solid and well put together.
The system also feels like no space at all has been wasted
in its design. The on/off and volume controls are located
on the bottom of the system and there should be zero chance
of accidentally hitting either of them. The headphone port
is out of the way and will not interfere with gaming. Every
control feels to be in the right place and the system just
reeks of quality.
Pros Of The GBA
There are numerous pros of the product, easily making it
the king of portable gaming hardware. The graphics are the
most notable improvement with the improved sound quality taking
a notable second. IMHO, I would place the quality of GBA graphics
in between the SNES and PSX as far as 2-D graphics go. (The
GBA does not include dedicated 3-D hardware so, whatever we
get there is a bonus.) The system feels great in your hands
and plays nearly all existing Game Boy software. Battery life
is also upped by a substantial amount.
Price point is also a great feature of the system, since,
even at initial import pop prices, it was still easily affordable
if you planned a little for it. The system will enjoy a lot
of success based upon its raw merits alone..
Cons Of The GBA
Most of the complaints about the system I feel are either
way off base or just completely invalid. I think that most
of these complaints come from people who just do not realize
how far video gaming has come in a reasonably short amount
Complaint #1: No back lit screen. People throw this line
around almost as much as "I'm a hardcore gamer".
It is a ridiculous request. First, back lighting not only
adds an expensive part to the system, but also taxes the batteries
more that would be necessary. Back lit gaming system traditionally
required up to 6 AA batteries and performed for as little
as 3 hours on a fresh set. I actually read on Daily Radar's
web site that they should have tried to use bio lumescant
technology. I guess those people were just trying to show
off some fringe techie knowledge since we are nowhere near
adopting that type of screen for a low cost.
Complaint #2: No 3-D hardware. This is where it is bad for
people who think the first video game console was the PlayStation.
3-D graphics take a lot of processing power, which equals
two things in gaming hardware, power and price. To drop in
a 3-D chip in the GBA at this point would most likely double
the system price and cut battery life in half.
Complaint #3: Using cartridges. This is the most ridiculous
one I have heard. I have seen more than few people state that
mini-disc or some other technology should have been used.
Carts are still perfect for portable gaming due to their durability,
zero load times and relative ease of storage. Mini-discs,
even though they are pretty skip proof and sturdy, would ruin
the price of the machine, as well as battery life and durability
due to all the moving parts. The most important reason to
avoid this is due to loading times. People complain and complain
about loading times then want them on a portable system where
5-minute clips of gaming are common? *sigh*
Complaint #4: The Sound. Apparently... people were expecting
3D CD quality surround sound. What we got seems to be just
under the SNES standards. We took a HUGE jump in sound quality...
and people are complaining. I suppose they should go back
to the standard Game Boy bleeps and beeps just to prove a
The only real con of the product overall that I have would
be the inclusion of at least one other button on the face.
Some conversions of games will still be hampered with a compacted
control scheme because of this. It is not a terribly big deal
but it would have been nice.
The Game Boy Advance is simply incredible. I really cannot
wait to see what kind of software we will be seeing even just
a year from now. This system is a dream come true for 2-D
gaming fans. Nintendo has created another masterpiece. The
system is solid, reliable, and features incredible graphics
and sound for a low price. You will love this system if you
are a portable gaming fan.